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By: The AAST Associate Editor on September 22nd, 2022

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Coronasomnia: The COVID-19 Side Effect You’ve Been Sleeping On

Sleep Disorders | COVID-19 | Long COVID

The coronavirus pandemic has affected every facet of our lives, from how we work to where we spend our free time. Less often discussed is how COVID-19 has affected how we sleep, and the underlying phenomenon of “coronasomnia.”

What is coronasomnia?

A portmanteau of “coronavirus” and “insomnia,” coronasomnia refers to the increasingly reported phenomena of pandemic-related sleep issues.1 Sleep problems recognized as symptoms of insomnia, such as trouble falling or staying asleep, frequently waking up during the night or poor sleep quality resulting from increased stress levels during the pandemic, all fall under coronasomnia.

Who may be experiencing coronasomnia?

People who have had COVID-19 and experienced long-term effects, also known as “long COVID,” are at a higher risk of developing sleep disorders during the pandemic.2 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes intense fatigue and “sleep problems” as symptoms of long COVID.3

In a 2022 study published by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, Black Americans experiencing long COVID were at three times the risk of experiencing COVID-related sleep problems compared to other races and ethnicities.4

Individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, or those who were overweight and displaying symptoms of long COVID were also reported to be at a higher risk for sleep disorders and intensified anxiety and depression.

Does coronasomnia only impact people with long COVID?

Coronasomnia refers to sleep issues linked to living through the COVID-19 pandemic.5 While coronasomnia most notably affects people who have experienced long COVID, stress-induced insomnia affecting those who have never contracted the disease also falls under this umbrella.

If a person has developed or experienced worsened stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health issues directly impacting their sleep quality over the course of the pandemic, they may be categorized as experiencing coronasomnia.

Is there any treatment available?

As we continue to learn more about coronasomnia and its causes, it’s important for patients to seek help from a sleep physician if they are experiencing fatigue or inadequate sleep.

While there are no specialized treatments for coronasomnia at this time, there are a number of recommendations for easing symptoms:

  • Lifestyle changes: Avoiding caffeine and alcohol is commonly suggested for treating insomnia. Other changes, such as increasing exercise or spending time outdoors, can also help patients relax and feel more rested.
  • Reduced screen time: Reducing screen time, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime, can prevent the body’s circadian clock from being disrupted.
  • Medication: Over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as melatonin, may help patients achieve a higher quality of sleep. If the underlying cause of coronasomnia is related to intensified mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, prescribed medications and behavioral therapy could help.

As we continue to move forward through this pandemic, sleep health professionals will continue to be key players, providing sleep hygiene education to address the underlying crisis of inadequate rest and sleep that play into this diagnosis.


References

  1. Can COVID-19 Cause Insomnia and Other Sleep Problems? Cleveland Clinic. Accessed August 23, 2022. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/covid-insomnia/#:~:text=Coined%20%E2%80%9Ccoronasomnia%2C%E2%80%9D%20COVID%2D,we're%20still%20studying.%E2%80%9D
  2. Held M and Dunleavy BP. Can COVID-19 Trigger Insomnia? Everyday Health. Accessed August 23, 2022. https://www.everydayhealth.com/coronavirus/can-covid-19-trigger-insomnia/
  3. Long COVID or Post-COVID Conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed August 23, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html
  4. Pena Orbea C, Lapin B, Katzan I, Englund K, Foldvary-Schaefer N, Mehra R. Sleep Disturbances in Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), Sleep. 2022;45:A321 https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsac079.731
  5. Fry, A. Coronasomnia: Definition, Symptoms, and Solutions. Sleep Foundation. Accessed August 23, 2022. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/covid-19-and-sleep/coronasomnia#:~:text=Coronasomnia%20is%20characterized%20by%20an,to%20the%20COVID%2D19%20pandemic